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Johnny Foreigner - Grace & The Bigger Picture

Johnny Foreigner, Grace & The Bigger Picture

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

THE sophomore album from Birmingham noise merchants Johnny Foreigner is described as maturer, more exciting and even more euphoric than their acclaimed debut, Waited Up Til It Was Light. But that’s not really the case…

Recorded while on the road and gigging in New York, the album still takes the same shambolic, full speed ahead apprach and sounds pretty samey as a result.

True, the fact that Alexei Berrow, Kelly Southern and Junior Elvis Washington Laidley (guitarist, bassist and drummer respectively) have been able to draw on more of their experiences does provide a fuller flavour to the lyrics, but with very few exceptions the album just drones on and on over the course of 15 crash course songs. Fortunately, the album is short (at around 41 minutes), but it can still feel long.

As with the debut album, the biggest problem with Johnny Foreigner’s output lies with Alexei’s yelping, frantic voice. It’s almost a relief when Kelly takes the lead on any song – or even the spotlight on a couple!

But such is the distinctive, relentless nature of Alexei’s voice that a lot of the songs sound the same, particularly when being hurled out of the stereo in such giddy, breakneck fashion.

The first three songs on the LP are pretty non-descript and set the template for much of what follows – scattershot, spiky guitar riffs and boy-girl vocal trade-offs. But very few songs sound like songs.

Admittedly, there are moments. Feels Like Summer has an infectious, raw energy that’s difficult not to find yourself caught up in (or chanting along with), while Illchoosemysideandshutup, Alright offers a rare moment of pause in which the guitars are stripped back and Kelly’s fragile vocals take centre stage. It’s one of few genuine charmers, with a vulnerability that’s barely apparent.

Another former single and crowd favourite Criminals is OK, but fairly generic amid the Johnny Foreigner sound, while Custom Scenes and The Parties That Make Them almost slows things down with the sort of intro that suggests they’re capable of staying mature. But it doesn’t quite pull it off as successfully or convincingly as it should. Likewise, More Heart, Less Tongue, which reigns things in, but continually threatens to explode.

Thereafter, the amps are turned up, the guitars revert to frenzied and Alexei rediscovers his wail until Kelly once again shines over Every Cloakroom Ever, and then the band cleverly subvert More Heart, Less Tongue with the warped but strangely addictive More Tongue, Less Heart.

Overall, however, you get the impression that Johnny Foreigner are never more happy than when letting it all hang loose and unleashing their inner riot. Sadly, we’d been expecting more from them.

Download picks: Feels Like Summer, More Heart Less Tongue, Every Cloakroom Ever, More Tongue Less Heart, Illchoosemysideandshutup, Alright

Track listing:

  1. Choose Yr Side And Shut Up!
  2. Security To The Promenade
  3. Ghost The Festivals
  4. Feels Like Summer
  5. Illchoosemysideandshutup, Alright
  6. Criminals
  7. Custom Scenes And The Parties That Make Them
  8. More Heart, Less Tongue
  9. Kingston Called, They Want Their Lost Youth Back
  10. I Woke Up On A Beach In Aberystwyth
  11. (Graces)
  12. Dark Harbourzz
  13. Every Cloakroom Ever
  14. More Tongue, Less Heart
  15. The Coast Was Always Clear